How to Increase Sales in Retail Through Brand Partnerships & Collaborations

Brand collaborations and partnerships are a brilliant way to increase your customer base and get loads more sales while minimising expenses. Here are your hot tips for success.
min read
Retail Express Team
July 29, 2022
Retail Express Team
July 29, 2022

Table of contents

Going it alone in retail can be a tough and lonely gig, especially for start-ups. Even established brands staying in their lane, paddling madly underwater, can find growth hard work — especially when the economy slows. Brand partnerships and collaborations end the solo slog, though, offering a refreshingly economical way to grow, find new customers, increase sales in retail and boost branding.

We can only control what we can control right now{Controlling what we can control}

It pays to remember that we can only control what we can control right now. We can't control fuel prices and supply chain issues. Still, we can control how we manage our customer service and their experiences, our business relationships, and the coolest kids on the block — brand collaborations and partnerships.

Brand collaborations have been around for a while. But they've previously been considered a quirky novelty or even a desperate experiment. But now, the concept is genuinely having a moment — an exciting, customer-enthusing, profitable moment.

Why so? 

Brand collaborations are an ultra-affordable way to market your brand. They expose you to new audiences, so you'll find new customers and make more money.

You can share resources with your collaborative partner (think: social media, email marketing, freight costs, event hire).

You offer your customers something new and exciting — that wow factor, making them fall in love with your brand even more. You'll improve your reputation and build customer loyalty.

And, at a time when there are a lot of negatives, a brand collaboration is something positive you can organise right now, with extremely positive rewards.

No matter how you choose to grow your business, it's vital you have the right software in place. Retail Express point of sale software can streamline your business, maximise profits and future proof your business. Get a free demo today with an Australian-based retail expert.

What are brand collaborations & brand partnerships?

Depending on which country you live in, brand collaborations, brand collabs, co-branding and brand partnerships are used interchangeably. Some say brand partnerships and brand collaborations are where two or more brands come together (aka collab partners) to market their products or services to increase product sales (either in-store or online sales) in various ways.

However, others say co-branding and product collaboration are in the same boat and involve two brands collaborating to create a unique product. Confused? Just select the name that you think is most appropriate for your project.

NB: The business phrase ‘strategic partnership’ has previously been used by retailers to describe two independent brands partnering together in an agreement. However, the above-mentioned phrases have become more prevalent in retail and branding circles.

Examples of retail brand partnerships & collaborations

Collaborative marketing-

Collaborative marketing is when two or more companies come together in a co-marketing campaign. This way, you share the marketing expense. For the collaboration to be successful, all parties involved must have demographics that overlap — but this doesn't mean you are in the same market (more below).

Co-marketing has the advantage of stretching your dollar further and reaching new customers via an endorsement from a brand they already know and trust.

Examples can be as simple as social media shout-outs, mentions in your weekly EDM, or shared marketing expenses in paid advertising.

Co-shared retail events-

Co-shared retail events are a savvy way of gaining new customers and enhancing your brand reputation. And they can be a lot of fun. Examples of co-shared retail events include pop-up stores, where two brands share the rental cost and space, and possibly cross-merchandise their products. 

Other events include VIP nights in-store, where another brand is invited to cross merchandise or promote their wares in a way that is enticing and beneficial for the customer. VIP events are also another excellent way of driving foot traffic.

For example, a sleepwear company may organise an event with a bedding company. They might choose to hold a VIP event in the bedding store, inviting all recent customers, with the sleepwear company joining them (also inviting their customer database). They might showcase the sleepwear, have a fashion parade, or merchandise items together — throwing in champagne or snacks to add to the fun.

Collaborative product development (the hip new kid on the block){Collaborative product development}

Smeg x Dolce & Gabbana product collaboration
Image courtesy of Smeg

Collaborative product development is where things get fun and fancy. When done well, they can be more than just profitable; they can be thrilling and irresistibly enticing. Just look at the Smeg x Dolce & Gabbana collaboration here or here to see how glamorous product collabs can get.

A note of caution, though, carrying out a product collab on a grand scale is not for newbies. Ideally, you should be an established, trusted brand, working with another brand of relatively equal merit and have firm contractual rules in place. But if this sounds like you, why not explore this idea? 

Karen Walker x Lexus Collaboration
Image courtesy of Karen Walker

New Zealand fashion designer Karen Walker has proven to be a master collaborator. With no shortage of design talent or business savvy, she’s reaped huge success collaborating with designers of umbrellas, footwear and  sleepwear  to chocolatiers art galleries and even mass media and entertainment conglomerate Disney.

Image courtesy of Karen Walker

For further inspiration, check out Karen Walker x Papinelle.

“Collabs don't just add benefits; they multiply benefits.”

The beauty of joining forces is that the results don't just deliver the sum of two parts. Instead, they multiply. As the team at Bloomberg notes, it's not Smeg + Dolce & Gabbana but Smeg x Dolce & Gabbana. 

10+10 = 20; but 10 x 10 gives you a truckload more.

Product collaborations described above do, however, warrant their own page, so for the sake of brevity, lets get back to what is most do-able for the average retailer: collaborative marketing and promotional events.

How to plan a retail brand marketing collaboration

TIP 1: Don't think the retailer has to be the same size as yours

It never pays to be shy in business. If you're a small to medium-sized business that wants to organise a collaborative event for marketing purposes, this doesn't mean you don’t have to align yourself with equally sized companies. You could collaborate with a larger brand.

To explore possibilities, think of what you have to offer. Then, make a list of any brands that would benefit from your offering while also providing you with a mutual benefit. Importantly, make sure both of you have similar values and ethics.

Many big brands are happy to support emerging brands. Besides, aligning themselves with a new brand can invigorate their image and branding. (Be realistic, though. We don't suggest a hand-printed T-shirt company should knock on Chanel's door.)

TIP 2: Look outside your industry

Collaborations aim to complement each other, not to compete. Think laterally and come up with brands where you can bring something new to the table together.

Also, there may be brands that are pretty different to yours. Still, you may share an alignment, such as ethics on sustainability, donating towards a particular charity or supporting a cause such as mental health.

TIP 3: There's no need to blow your budget

One of the most substantial benefits of collaborative arrangements is that you don't have to spend much money to get a positive result. Instead, you have to put your effort into creativity and lateral thinking to entice all customers involved and, in turn, grow your customer database.

10 Steps for a successful retail brand collaboration

  1. Write down your business ethics, values and needs: Think of what you want to get out of the partnership. Other than just more customers, do you need more trust? More cool/hip factor? More colour and creativity? Or perhaps a younger or older demographic? Also, write down what you won't compromise on regarding your brand values. 
  2. Be clear on your customer base: Use your reporting tools to clarify precisely who your customers are so you can present this to your potential collaborators.
  3. Get creative – ask the whole team to pool ideas: They don't have to be set in stone, but put some ideas in place before approaching other companies.
  4. Start the hunt for collaborators: Think of brands your target market would use and enjoy the collaboration between both businesses. Talk with colleagues and staff and search social media for ideal partners.
  5. Create a list of potential partners: Make sure your audience knows them, they’re not already associated with another brand and would be attractive to your customers.
  6. Do some detective work:  Go through your list and check out each brand's social media profile to see how many followers and their engagement level. Join the mailing list to see the emails they send or ask them for a media kit. You don't want to be investing your time and energy into a company that falls flat on promotions.
  7. Reach out to your potential partners: Be bold and choose who you want the most first. Prominent brands are usually more organised and have better resources, so go for it.
  8. Organise a meeting with interested parties: Share ideas and be clear on who would contribute what. 
  9. Set your plan in stone: Detail your list of actionable tasks and get to work. The event may never happen if you're too casual and shy. Set a date and make a timeline of activities required before the event.
  10. Publicise your event: Use your marketing and loyalty software to target your appropriate customers and send them dedicated emails about the event. Advertise the event in-store and via your online shop. Be brave and get as much press as possible to get the most mileage out of your event.
target the right retail customers for your collaborative event
With the right software, you can target the best customers for your collab event

Playing it safe: a word of warning

To ensure a successful collaboration and not a calamity, keep the following issues in mind:

  • Choose your collab partner carefully and make sure they have the right chemistry, ethics and values as your brand
  • Research the brand online to check for any bad publicity or improper business dealings, as this could reflect poorly on your company.
  • Be clear about each other's involvement: ensure the tasks each party will be responsible for are put in writing. Make sure you're contributing equally. If you're unsure where to start when writing agreements, UK legal firm Harper James offers this excellent guide for business collaboration agreements. 
  • If you're venturing into a product collaboration, be clear about how your retail partnership will work. Ask a lawyer to draw a contract regarding what each party will pay for production, profit percentage and marketing commitments.

Next steps:-

There are many ways to get more customers and build your brand. But it’s essential you have the right POS software in place to give you the tools you need to succeed. Contact Retail Express to discover how our point of sale software can streamline your business, maximise profits and future proof your business. Get a free demo today with an Australian-based retail expert.

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